Issa subpoenas head of WH political office

The House Oversight Committee on Friday subpoenaed the director of the White House's political office as part of its investigation into whether the administration is using taxpayer dollars for political purposes.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called on David Simas, the head of the White House Office of Political Strategy, to appear at a hearing next week.

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“In an effort to appease its political allies, the Obama Administration broadcast its intention to re-open a political office within the White House to assist in partisan election efforts and fundraising," Issa said in a statement.

"This hearing will examine abuses of taxpayer funds for political gain and the level of White House commitment to preventing them.”

In a letter to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, Issa complained the White House had not been responsive enough to requests for documents and information about the political office.

The White House has turned over 185 pages of documents related to the political office, and offered to provide a briefing to committee staff. Issa, though, said those efforts were not enough. 

On Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration was still reviewing the subpoena from the Oversight Committee.

But Earnest said the political office "operates in full compliance with the Hatch Act, and to date there is not even any suggestion or let alone evidence that we've deviated from the requirements of the Hatch Act."

"I just want to remind you and everyone else that's covering this that there is not even a shred of evidence to indicate any cause for concern," Earnest added.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, sent Issa a letter formally objecting to the subpoena. 

“Over the past several weeks—ever since House Speaker John Boehner took the Benghazi investigation away from the Oversight Committee and transferred it to the new Select Committee—you have been engaged in a subpoena binge, issuing more unilateral subpoenas than at any point during your tenure, and all with no debate or votes by our Committee," Cummings wrote.

The subpoena is the latest bid by the California Republican to make political hay out of the office, which was closed in 2011 ahead of President Obama's reelection campaign and opened again earlier this year.

In March, Issa demanded White House chief of staff Denis McDonough turn over all internal documents and communications related to the reopening of the office.

A month earlier, Issa accused the White House of not properly vetting the bid to reopen the office after the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent agency tasked with policing federal employees' political activities, told him that they had not been consulted about the move. 

Issa has also repeatedly noted that during the Bush administration, the agency found that officials in the White House violated federal laws prohibiting political activities. 

Bush aides worked with the Republican National Committee to develop a "target list" of GOP candidates in tight congressional races, encouraging political appointees to appear at events, and tracking fundraising efforts, in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits political work by most federal employees.

So far, Issa has been unable to identify similar concrete violations by President Obama's team but has kept pushing for internal communications or damaging testimony that could prove politically damaging to the White House.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Issa's subpoena. But the administration has previously said that the office is an important clearinghouse for election data, providing a single point of contact for the Democratic National Committee and other political groups.

The White House also maintains it is in compliance with all relevant laws prohibiting political activities by federal employees.

"This White House recognized the need for a consolidated office to provide the president political information, which OSC has described as appropriate official activity," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in March.

This story was updated at 2:12 p.m.